© Andrew Angelov |

Technology could be the answer to the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) crackdown on illegal ecommerce imports.

In February, CBP warned customs brokers they would need to file complete, accurate and timely data sets, including full product descriptions and HS codes – and last month began deploying an update to the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE), which enforces filing Type 86 (de minimis) transactions.

“This change by US CBP has huge implications for customs brokers importing into the US, particularly those handling the ever-growing volumes of goods arriving from the major global ecommerce centres, such as China and India,” noted Hurricane, which provides cross-border ecommerce technology.

Laurie Cieciuch, Hurricane’s partnership director, said: “Failure to meet the new Entry Type 86 requirements could result in customs brokers having to manage massive volumes of formal and informal entry clearances, something that is hugely labour intensive and time consuming and ultimately impacting their clients and end consumers.”

The company noted another “significant change”: the national implementation of cargo messaging, to communicate with the entry filer on shipments that have vague, non-compliant cargo descriptions.

Neil Johnson, co-director of TNETS Global, which provides customs declaration technology, noted on social media: “Exporters to the US of low-value goods, and e-commerce platforms, logistics providers and customs brokers facilitating these shipments, will inevitably be impacted as it will provide an opportunity for CBP to specifically target shipments based on descriptions and HS codes.”

“Things should settle down rapidly as platforms can generally make the required info available.”

Sean Dolan, CEO of NorthLink Aviation, which is investing in Anchorage Airport, added: “While it is easy to frame the regulatory scrutiny  as a US vs China trade policy issue – with unfortunately a major public health crisis sprinkled in with fentanyl – I think it is important to consider the history of technological innovation.

“What we are seeing is a bit of cross-border ecommerce’s ‘Napster’ moment. Back in the early-2000s, online streaming was the ‘Wild West’ of copyright infringement and other dodgy practices. Today, media streaming is fundamental to how consumers enjoy media. Similarly, I do think that cross border e-commerce today is in its infancy.

“There is a lot of growing up to be done in cross border e-commerce, and I suspect CBP’s moves this week will inspire everyone to embrace trade compliance with more energy and resources. 100% digitalisation is key, which is hard for an industry that is the last bastion of the analogue era.

“I expect that in the next few years, the experience of cross-border online shopping will be more akin to using Amazon domestically.”

Hurricane said it had received numerous enquiries from brokers and forwarders looking to ensure compliance with accurate and valid data, and marketing & communications director Nick Mason added: “The undervaluation of items is another issue we are being asked to assist with.”

While technology may assist with ensuring the CBP’s request for accurate data can be met, not every illegality can be stopped with technology.

Sources told The Loadstar that the next clamp down by CBP would be on goods made using forced labour, which will involve proper supply chain certification.


The Loadstar recently published a series of articles on the risks to ecommerce

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